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The yearly SNTS meeting was this year arranged in Athens, Greece. What a wonderful place to have a meeting focusing on New Testament studies. While some might suggest Jerusalem as the place most filled with symbolism for biblical studies, Athens might come as a good # 2.
In addion to that, the conference found place at the Titania hotel, that with its great restaurant at the top floor provided a magnificent view to the Acropolis and Athens. Three Philo scholars from Norway were attending the meeting, and among them, the doyen of Norwegian Philo studies, prof Peder Borgen. Here you see him seated in the restaurant withtwo of his former doctoral students, prof Per Jarle Bekken to the right (Borgen’s left side), and me on the other side. It was great to have Borgen with us, and to see him – in his age of 90 1/2 years- enjoying and participating in the sessions.
On Saturday 11th, there was an very interesting excursion to Corinth and Epidaurus, a trip also enjoyed by prof Borgen, his wife and two daughters.
The great theatre at Epidaurus
Prof. em. Karl-Gustav Sandelin has been challenged – and helped – by a grandchild to set up a personal webpage, and here is the nice result:
Have a look!
Prof. Malina will probably be remembered by most as one of those who introduced Social Anthropology, or Cultural Anthropology as he called it, into New Testament studies. His books on The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (John Knox Press, 1981 and later), his Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology. Practical Models for Biblical Interpretation (John Knox Press, 1986), and his (together with Jerome H. Neyrey), Portraits of Paul. An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), are great works that made Social Scientific ways of thinking (along cultural anthropology lines) both relevant and common in New Testament studies. Think about it, who, if any, knew and applied the models of Honor and Shame, Dyadic Personality, Limited Good etc in New Testament studies before they read Malina? When at the peak of his strength-and popularity- he published a flow of articles and books on New Testament Issues. He got a lot of followers, and a group focusing on these issues, the Context Group , was formed in 1986, and is still active (see also here). In 2001 he was honored by a Festschrift: John J. Pilch, ed., Social Scientific Models for Interpreting the Bible. Biblical Interpretation Series, SBL, Atlanta, 2001, and a bibliography 1967-1999 of his works is available here.
As for my own part, I met prof Malina in 1987, when being a Fulbright professor at the University of Oslo, he visited the University of Trondheim to present some of his work there, and to discuss my own work as a research fellow there. There and then he introduced me to the world of Mediterranean Social anthropology, and in particular to the model of ‘establisment violence/vigilantism’ which I later applied in my PhD dissertation. I remember him as very kind, helpful and genuinely interested in my work, but also as very self-conscious about his work.
In his later years he cherished some unconventional ideas about present day Israelis, Israel and the Palestinian problem. To some extent this might also have influenced some views in his scholarly works.
But I cherish the memories of a Bruce Malina as a scholar who did New Testament studies a great service in introducing issues from Mediterranean social anthropology. The study of the social world of the New Testament, and even of the Bible as a whole, received insights through his works that we all now take for granted.
The seminar at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, mentioned in an earlier posting, found place today. As it was in honor of the New Testament professor Reidar Hvalvik, it was good to see both former and present colleagues and not a few students being present.
The first main speaker was Larry W. Hurtado, prof.em. at Divinity School, University of Edinburgh (see picture). His topic was An Early Christian Book and its Story: P45 as Early Christian Artefact. Hurtado presented and characterized the P45, then discussed its importance for 4 different aspects of early Christianity; 1) the importance that it contains the four (now) canonical gospels, 2) the placement or location of Acts in the collection, 3) the codex format used, and then 4) the importance of p45 for its use of nomina sacra.
Then there were two other lectures (Professor Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland (MF):Representations of Church and the Synagogue in Ecclesiastical Art, and Postdoc. Dr. Ole Jakob Filtvedt (MF): Picturing the Father in the Gospel of John?). What I found particular interesting here was a picture shown by Aavitsland, of Christ carrying his cross in form of a tree (cf. Deutr 21:23; Gal. 3:13). I have never seen that before! That may be due to my lack of knowledge of art, but, nevertheless, or in particular for that reason- interesting to me! 🙂
Nice day in the auditorium! Congratulations to Prof. Hvalvik!
The theme of the gathering will be: Picturing the New Testament, and the international (non-Norwegian) lecturer will be Larry W. Hurtado:
10.30–11.00 Professor Karl Olav Sandnes (MF): Reidar Hvalvik – a presentation
11.00–11.45 Emeritus professor Larry W. Hurtado (University of Edinburg): An Early Christian Book and its Story: P45 as Early Christian Artefact
12.45–13.30 Professor Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland (MF):Representations of Church and the Synagogue in Ecclesiastical Art
14.00–14.45 Postdoc. Dr. Ole Jakob Filtvedt (MF): Picturing the Father in the Gospel of John?
14.45–15.00 Summary, thanks etc.
Sometimes it is fun to play with ideas, and fun to play with common accepted standpoints, whether of so-called ‘common’ knowledge, or ideas prevalent and generally accepted in much research. If no-one dares to plays with ideas, challenge them, maybe even turn them up-side-down, there will be little progress in research.
Some ideas about the origins of the New Testament Gospels are more widely accepted then others, that is, more generally accepted, even though you can always find deviating, or better, opposing positions.
The idea or standpoint that the NT gospels are, even though they by now wear titles, originally anonymous gospels; that is, that they were issued, having no authorial names attached to them, are one such idea.
Most lay people, and some conservative theologians, takes the names like ‘Gospel according Matthew’, Mark, Luke, or John as genuine authorial statements; but many don’t. It seems to be an accepted dogma in scholarly circles that the titles are later additions…
However, Brant Pitre has now published a little book in which in which he challenges the common scholarly opinion, arguing that the names Matthew, Mark. Luke and John may in fact be references to the ‘real’ authors of the Gospels.
Dr. Brant Pitre, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, in New Orleans, Louisiana – has come up with a book that challenges many of the more common conceptions about the origins of the gospels:
Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus. The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ (Image, 2016)
I wont say I buy all he is trying to argue in this book, but it is an enjoyable and refreshing reading – so far, but I haven’t read all yet. But have a look at the arguments he presents in favor for the view that the Gospels were in fact not anonymous.
But first, the mainline view of the anonymity of the Gospels:
First, according to this theory, all four Gospels were originally published without any titles or headings identifying the authors.
Second, all four Gospels supposedly circulated without any titles for almost a century before anyone attributed them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
Third, it was only much later— sometime after the disciples of Jesus were dead and buried— that the titles were finally added to the manuscripts.
Fourth and finally, and perhaps most significant of all, according to this theory, because the Gospels were originally anonymous, it is reasonable to conclude that none of them was actually written by an eyewitness.
Then, we have the counterarguments of prof. Pitre:
“The first and perhaps biggest problem for the theory of the anonymous Gospels is this: no anonymous copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John have ever been found. They do not exist. As far as we know, they never have. . . . When it comes to the titles of the Gospels, not only the earliest and best manuscripts, but all of the ancient manuscripts— without exception, in every language— attribute the four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 14.” *
“Second, notice that there is some variation in the form of the titles (for example, some of the later manuscripts omit the word “Gospel”). However, as New Testament scholar Michael Bird notes, there is “absolute uniformity” in the authors to whom each of the books is attributed.”
“Third— and this is important— notice also that the titles are present in the most ancient copies of each Gospel we possess, including the earliest fragments, known as papyri (from the papyrus leaves of which they were made). For example, the earliest Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew contains the title “The Gospel according to Matthew” (Greek euangelion kata Matthaion) (Papyrus 4). Likewise, the oldest Greek copy of the beginning of the Gospel of Mark starts with the title “The Gospel according to Mark” (Greek euangelion kata Markon).”
“The second major problem with the theory of the anonymous Gospels is the utter implausibility that a book circulating around the Roman Empire without a title for almost a hundred years could somehow at some point be attributed to exactly the same author by scribes throughout the world and yet leave no trace of disagreement in any manuscripts. 20 And, by the way, this is supposed to have happened not just once, but with each one of the four Gospels.”
“Finally, if things happened the way the anonymous theory proposes, then why aren’t some copies attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but other copies attributed to someone else— for instance, Andrew, or Peter, or Jude? If the Gospels really got their titles from scribes falsely adding them to manuscripts up to a century later, we would expect to find both (1) anonymous copies— which, as we’ve already seen, don’t exist— as well as (2) contradictory titles, with some scribes attributing one copy of a Gospel to Matthew and another attributing the same Gospel to Peter or Jesus or whomever.”
“In short, the theory of the anonymous Gospels suffers not only from a lack of manuscript evidence but also from a lack of logic. It simply does not pass muster when it comes to basic criteria of historical plausibility.”
These are the main arguments of prof. Pitre in chapter 2 of his book; if your are interested in the rest of his arguments, get the book; it is available in paper as well as in a Kindle edition.
*(I’m sorry, I have no exact page references as I use a Kindle version)
It has become a recurring tradition that some evening during the SBL Annual Meeting, Philo scholars are invited to participate in an evening dinner session in some nearby restaurant. Thus, in this way following the traditions of Philo about the sociality in dining together, ‘old’ and ‘new’ Philo scholars can meet and socialize over a good meal. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them).
Albert Geljon, Annewies van den Hoek and David T. Runia.
Ronald Cox, the symposiarchos, and David T. Runia. 🙂